Bitcoin Allegedly Used to Fund ISIS

Crime, News | December 15, 2017 By:

A New York woman allegedly laundered more than $85,000 USD through bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to support the Islamic State group.

Zoobia Shahnaz, a 27-year-old hospital technician, was charged with bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering. Shahnaz allegedly defrauded numerous financial institutions and obtained over $85,000 in illicit proceeds, which she allegedly converted to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Shahnaz then allegedly transferred the funds to individuals and shell entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey that were ultimately destined for the terrorist organization.

Prosecutors said Shahnaz volunteered to work with the Syrian American Medical Society in Jordan in June, 2016. She spent two weeks in Amman, the Jordanian capital, and in the Zataari refugee camp, a place “where ISIS exercises significant influence.” She then returned to the United States and applied for six credit cards, which she used to buy cryptocurrencies.

After conducting these financial transactions, Shahnaz sought to travel to Syria. She was questioned by law enforcement at John F. Kennedy International Airport when she attempted to board a flight to Islamabad, Pakistan. The prosecutors said her itinerary included a multi-day layover in Istanbul, Turkey, a common point of entry for individuals traveling from Western countries to join ISIS in Syria.

If convicted, Shahnaz faces 20 years in prison on each of the money laundering charges and up to 30 years for the bank fraud charge.

“As alleged, the defendant Zoobia Shahnaz engaged in a bank fraud scheme, purchased bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and laundered money overseas, intending to put thousands of dollars into the coffers of terrorists,” said Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “The indictment reflects the resolve of this office, together with our law enforcement partners, to investigate and prosecute anyone who would seek to support terrorists, including those who would perpetrate financial crimes to do so.”

“Syria is a perilous and violent war-torn country, but the subject in this investigation was allegedly so determined to assist ISIS that she planned a covert, illegal entry into Syria,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. “On top of which, she allegedly tried to launder virtual currency to bolster terrorists’ dwindling financial support. The FBI New York Joint Terrorism Task Force kept this woman from her dangerous and potentially deadly goal. We will do all we can to stop the next person hoping to do the same. We want to thank our law enforcement partners Suffolk County Police Department, with whom we worked this case side-by-side.”